Gun Fury (1953)
Noted for action films, Raoul Walsh, directed this technicolor western from Columbia meant to spotlight the up and coming Rock Hudson. He’s paired with Donna Reed who was in the midst of a stellar year in movie houses highlighted by her Oscar winning performance in From Here To Eternity. With Hudson cast as the hero, Phil Carey, takes on the duties slated for the film’s heavy. Now to be honest I like all three of these “stars” who scored above the title billing. But it’s that co-starring trio amongst the opening credits that makes this one a sure fire must see for western and all around tough guy fans.
You show me any film with these three names attached to it singly and I’m more than casually interested. Put all three of these bad hombres in one movie and it’s required viewing no matter what the end result ultimately looks like.
This western adventure begins like many others. Aboard a stagecoach carrying Miss Reed, old timer Forrest Lewis, the gentlemanly Phil Carey and an unknown passenger with hat pulled low catching a sleep on the ride. One that turns out to be Leo Gordon.
At a coach stop we’ll discover that Gordon and Carey are an outlaw team. The difference being that Carey has an eye for the ladies and intends to make a play for Miss Reed. Leads to the best exchange in the film.
Carey, ” She’s as different from other women as cognac is to corn liquor.”
Gordon, “You get the same kind of headache from either one of them.”
It’s at this point in time that Hudson arrives at the station to claim his lady love and share the ride. The two are slated to be wed and start that ranch every western couple dreams of. Rock has sworn off violence following the Civil War and is gently at odds with Carey’s opinion around the dining table. Those dreams of wedded bliss are about to be waylaid when Carey and Gordon draw their weapons on the trail and are met be their outlaw gang. Among them Mr. Marvin and Mr. Brand. I just realized, where the hell was Jack Elam when the casting call went out? It seems that the coach has been carrying a gold shipment that the one time Southern gents are claiming as their own.
Long story short, they leave Rock for dead and Carey kidnaps Miss Reed against the wishes of Big Leo. It’s at a cabin hideaway on route to Mexico that are outlaws will have a falling out. One that sees Carey and company leave Gordon badly beaten and left for the buzzards to pick clean. He’ll have a revived Hudson to thank for saving him and like “The Rock” he’ll have a score of his own to settle with Carey. Forming an uneasy alliance the duo are now riding together. Gordon for vengeance and his cut of the gold, Hudson to save his betrothed from harm.
Carey has little intention of releasing Miss Reed once they reach Mexico and she’ll have to contend with a fiery Mexican lover of Carey’s who gets tossed aside in favor of the classy Mary of It’s a Wonderful Life. She’ll be roped, dragged and if my assumptions are correct, raped along the trail to Mexico. As for that Mexican lass, Roberta Haynes, she herself will have to contend with Lee Marvin who is more than willing to entertain Carey’s castoff.
One more seeker of vengeance will join Rock and Leo on the trail through Arizona. It’s an Indian brave played by Pay Hogan. He wants Carey’s head on a stick for violence against his people and at first wants Leo dead but agrees to ride with him when learning they both have the same goal in mind.
I should point out that it’s Leo Gordon who shines the brightest for me in Gun Fury and I believe that’s due to him playing a multi dimensional character who is on the verge of redemption. Earlier on the film he tried to convince Rock and Donna from riding on the coach with him and Carey and we’re to learn why as the film progresses. He’s had a belly full of needless violence and killing. Carey has become a mad dog who has lost both the war and his sense of decency.
How far is Gordon willing to go down that road of redemption? You’ll have to tune in yourself to find out but be rest assured that our outlaw gang are going to pay a heavy price by the fadeout at the 82 minute mark.
Walsh’s film is not quite a conventional western in it’s delivery over the last twenty odd minutes and I’ll admit to wishing it had been. Let’s just say I expected more out of Rock and a better solution to the Gordon dilemma.
Gun Fury was originally released with the 3-D market in mind. The craze was in effect and film buff’s will be sure to point out that 1953 saw the release of The House of Wax. For my money, the best of the lot. To insert a few key scenes in Gun Fury for that 3-D effect, it leaves the film with some sloppy edits that are all too obvious as we look back.
This was the third film that Hudson made for the director in quick succession. The others being The Lawless Breed (1952) and Sea Devils (1953). Miss Reed was starring opposite a top tier list of leading men in ’53. John Wayne, Martin and Lewis, Hudson and John Payne. Then there was Clift, Lancaster and the legendary cast of From Here To Eternity. Pretty good roll call for one year’s list of credits.
As for our three desperadoes that always draw me in? Marvin of course went on to leading man status and an Academy Award following a number of solid supporting roles while both Brand and Gordon more or less remained heavies for the balance of their careers. I should point out though that Gordon wrote a number of screenplays in the years ahead including Tobruk where he costarred once again opposite Rock.
Looking for a copy of Gun Fury? Shouldn’t be tough to track down on DVD. Released in a limited 3000 blu ray pressings might be a little tougher to locate but it is available under the Twilight Time banner where you can watch it in 3-D if preferred.
Either way, watch this one for the overall cast gathered by Walsh and Columbia Pictures.